Almost forgotten in the excitement of the US presidential election is the recently announced $66 billion merger of U.S. seed-producer, Monsanto, and German drug and crop-chemical maker, Bayer. Experts are hailing this as an exciting combination of two industry giants, which will lead to significant improvements in food production, safety and technology.
The news has not been welcomed by all observers, however. Whether from ignorance or unfortunate events that happened in the distant past, there are claims that consumers are not best served by having one single mega-organisation control almost everything that we eat. In our view, whilst understandable, these fears are unfounded.
In Bayer’s case, it seems there are always some who will bear a grudge for the actions of its founder, I. G. Farben. During the Nazi era, Farben made a number of actions and investments which, with hindsight, did not place Bayer on the right side of history. Of course, one can never predict who will get to write history and therefore it is unfair make a pariah of a great industrialist. That said, were Farben alive today, for example, he would no doubt wish to revisit his corporate strategy centred around the make-up of his workforce and production of certain gases. All of this is happily consigned to history, however, since the head of Bayer issued a public apology a full 21 years ago. It is time to move on.
There are fewer reasons to worry about Monstanto. For starters, Monsanto is all-American and untainted with a Nazi past. Its involvement in the production of certain fertilizers used in Vietnam is also now a distant memory, with most millennials believing that Agent Orange was a fictional CIA operative played by Sylvester Stallone in a Hollywood blockbuster. In a world of ever more exacting standards, Monsanto outperforms its peers when it comes to issues around food safety, testing of new technologies and field trials. Given a rapidly growing world population, we need a single mega-corporation more than ever in order to ensure:
- higher yields
- making crops more resistant to pests and disease
- consistency of food tastes
If this merger does not take place, there are real fears that in a few short years there will not be enough food to go around for all the hungry mouths. History will judge us harshly if we fail to approve this merger of greats.